KINSHASA, 25 October 2007 (IRIN) - Some 200 men under the command of dissident Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) General Laurent Nkunda failed to show up at a centre for integrating armed groups into the regular army, a UN official said - a day after Nkunda's top aide announced their handover.
Photo: Serge Farnel - Metula News Agency
Military integration, or 'brassage', is a key component of efforts to bring peace to eastern DRC, a region rife with pro-government militia and renegade troops, where fighting has displaced some 370,000 civilians since the end of 2006.
"According to the most recent information received this afternoon [25 October], none of Nkunda's men are present at the mobile base in Kilolwire [80km northwest of North Kivu capital Goma] for brassage into the regular army," Colonel Pierre Chareyon, a spokesman for the UN mission in DRC (MONUC) said in Goma.
Nkunda's right hand man Bwambale Kakolele insisted there must have been a misunderstanding. "Our soldiers are in indeed at Kilolwire and we are not very far from there. You have to ask MONUC at Kichanga [a settlement close to Kilolwire] because MONUC in Goma cannot see them."
The previous day, Bwambale told IRIN that a first batch of 200 of Nkunda's men were being sent for brassage, a process the dissident general - a Tutsi - had previously insisted would only take place after Hutu groups in the region were disarmed. If things went well, said Bwambale, another batch of 300 men would be sent for integration.
He added that Nkunda hoped that negotiations with the government would follow the handover of his troops.
DRC President Laurent Kabila has described Nkunda, who quit a power-sharing government in 2004 after serving in a Rwanda-backed rebel group during a 1998-2003 civil war, as a "criminal" and has ordered his army to prepare to disarm the dissidents forcibly. However, Kabila extended a brassage ultimatum that had been due to expire on 17 October by three weeks.